Don’t count on young people to undo Brexit

RIWI Insight of the Week

Underrepresenting disengaged young people in 2016 led to the incorrect assumption that more young people would vote and Remain would win comfortably. New 2019 RIWI data signals the risk of young people not voting has only gone down slightly, with no dramatic change in their views and engagement despite almost three years of Brexit uncertainty. A Remain win in a Brexit 2.0 vote would not be the certainty that traditional polls suggest.


Looming over the current Brexit chaos is the assumption by many, now that the British public presumably better understands what a Brexit Leave vote entails, that the British people must certainly realize that Brexit was a mistake and overwhelmingly oppose it. Is this assumption correct?

Traditional polling in advance of the 2016 Brexit referendum predicted that the British people would vote to remain in the European Union. Yet 52 percent voted to leave, a shock to most of the UK and to the global community.

The critical factor was younger people. Under-40s tended to support Remain, but many of them did not vote, and so not enough under-40s came out to overcome the older voter tendency to vote Leave.

Have young people become more engaged now that they see the complications and uncertainties Brexit raises? As part of RIWI’s continuous daily UK tracking, RIWI gathered observations from approximately 900 randomly engaged British people (including non-habitual survey takers) aged 18-40 from March 21 to April 11 to see where Britain’s young people stand today.

To read RIWI’s work on continued youth disengagement concerning Brexit, click here.